Tallinn Patriarchate Christmas Message

A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE to the ANGLOCATHOLIC CHURCH 2023

In this was manifest the love of God toward us,
because that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world
that we might live through Him. 1 John 4.9

In the ancient liturgy of the Western Church, the antiphon for the Introit for
the Sunday after Christmas sets the tone for the day’s celebration. Words from the
Book of Wisdom 18. 14, 15 were chosen carefully to create a theological balance
between meditating upon the Lucan and Matthean pastoral tableaux set in an
outbuilding in Bethlehem, a place beyond the reality of everyday life where the
story of Christ’s birth unfolds in all its beauty accompanied by shepherds, eastern
sages and the songs of the heavenly angelic chorus, between that I suggest and
pondering in our hearts with Mary the eternal significance of this heavenly Child’s
birth. The deeply resonant text of the antiphon is a kind of reinterpretation of the
story of the first Passover celebration presented in the Book of Exodus set in the
midst of ‘ a land that is doomed. ‘ It reads :


In the midst of a silence that held all things,
as night in its swift course was half spent,
your almighty Word, O Lord,
leapt down from the heavenly throne and came among us.


The text places the divine birth in a pivotal role as the midpoint of history, as a
decisive heavenly intervention in the course of the unfolding narrative of a fallen
world in which, to borrow T. S. Elliot’s magnificent description in Choruses from
the Rock, ‘ where there were men, in their various ways, ‘ who ‘ struggled in
torment towards GOD. ‘ In the Exodus narrative, the leaping stern warrior is the
destroying angel who in the depths of night passes over the blood stained
doorposts of the Hebrews while working justice and destruction on their Egyptian
oppressors. In the birth of this Child upon whose shoulders rests the Father’s
authority, we recognize the new Angel Who comes in deepest night, the
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God and Prince of Peace, the One who makes the
Father known, visible through a work of revelation. The text from Wisdom is
saturated with imagery that contrasts light and darkness, life and death. The focus
rests on the ‘ Word ‘ that leaps down bringing light and life, dispelling darkness
and sin, Who, as suggests Elliot in the Four Quartets,/ Burnt Norton, is ‘ the still
point of the turning world. ‘

Dear friends, we may simply elect to celebrate this birth as a historical
memory, as a charming scene. We may choose to ponder its eternal significance
and salvific import. These both are desirable. However, I suggest that more is
needed from us. This birth in time of the timeless Son of God demands of us a
complimentary birth, a second birth. As He assumes our human nature, we must be
reborn in Him, we through grace must receive as gift a appropriate measure of His
divinity and cherish it as our most prized possession. Yet there must be more, for
Paul in Romans 8 . 17 teaches of a third birth, a birth this time as adoption by God
when we are led by the Spirit of God and conformed to the image of the Son. We
then cry joyfully as children of God “ Abba, Father. “ We are made heirs of God
and joint heirs with Christ not by our own merits but by Him who died and rose
again, He who is our Saviour. All this preparatory work takes place in the mansion
of the human heart, a heart that needs to be cleansed and made ready for these two
births, ready for so great a heavenly guest. The text of Psalm 77 suggests an
appropriate methodology. Note that this approach is tied again to the Exodus story,
a master narrative for the history of God’s saving love for fallen humankind.


In my heart I meditate in the night,
I exercise myself and sweep out my spirit. ……
Thou didst mightily deliver thy people,
even the sons of Jacob and Joseph. …
Thou leddest thy people like sheep, by the hand of Moses and Aaron
.

Prepare your hearts then, sweep them clean, exercise your spirits that such a
mighty Guest may come and dwell with you, may share with you that peace that
passes understanding. Offer your heart to the newborn Son of God, for


The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us
and we beheld His glory,
the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,
full of grace and truth. John 1 . 14

Patriarch His Beatitude Lord Dr. Heigo Ritsbek, MA, MDiv, DMin, LittD, DD
Tallinn Patriarchate of the Anglocatholic Church

Tallinn Anglocatholic Cathedral worships at the former sacristy of Saint Catherine’s Church (from 1247 !) of the Dominican Monastery. The church remained ruins at the Reformation time. Here is the reconstruction of Saint Catherine’s church of Dominican Monastery before the Reformation.

The Patriarch of the Anglocatholic Church

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